When stylist Eric Daman Instagrammed a photo of the new cast of the upcoming Gossip Girl reboot at the tail end of 2020, it was propelled into the stratosphere of endless regrams and became the center of conversation for many fashionistas online.
Set to release this July on HBO, the new series stars the likes of Canadian actress Jordan Alexander and It-boy Evan Mock wearing updated versions of the classic Gossip Girl school uniforms that some would say not only defined, but set an entirely new expectation for fashion on TV in the mid-Aughts.
For an aspiring fashion writer who wanted more than anything to move to New York while in middle school, the original Gossip Girl was perhaps the first time I was exposed to real fashion beyond the pages of a magazine. In a time where social media didn’t yet exist in the way it does today, here was New York style in all its glory, from the preppy getups of the Upper East Siders to the more offbeat look of Brooklynite Jenny Humpfrey, who was applying to attend Parsons, the fashion school I ended up attending, undoubtedly inspired by the show.
While OG main characters like Blair Waldorf and Serena Van der Woodson were punctuated with their own style staples (Blair, a prepster with a penchant for headbands, and Serena, a bohemian goddess who often wore skinny ties, vests and sequin blazers), the characters on the new series have traded up to oversized varsity jackets, biker shorts, mini Louis Vuitton totes and of course, a slight focus on emerging designers with bags by JW Pei, for example. Of course, Daman, costume designer of both the original and the reboot, was known to do the same the first time around.
“We took what’s going on again in New York style and the streets and the world, infusing that with the influencer and Instagram world to be something that feels very current and very relevant,” says Daman of the new series. “It’s the modern world, and it’s easy to point out.”
When the original premiered in 2007, New York fashion had been defined for nearly 10 years before for a slightly older generation thanks to Sex and the City, where Daman worked under famed stylist Patricia Field. Suddenly, the doors were open to a younger audience to take chances with their wardrobes.
“New York style and being a new Yorker for 25 plus years definitely influenced how the cast dressed and the look of the girls,” says Daman, who would camp outside of the private schools of the Upper East Side to get ideas. “It made sense to use a lot of high-end labels and mix in downtown designers. The essence of New York fashion DNA was essential in creating those characters.”
It wasn’t uncommon then to see a Burberry cardigan paired with Sam Edelman boots, for example. “It was important to have a little Easter egg for things that could be attainable for the viewers and not make it just such a world that is completely out of everyone’s reach,” he adds.
Likewise, the series was an exuberant proponent of fashion product placement on television—with fans associating not only brands, but specific items, with their favorite characters. Blair, for example, couldn’t be seen without a Jennifer Behr headband or a Roger Vivier heel. For that reason, the fashion of Gossip Girl today lives on in a very niche way.
“Still, to this day, there’s an entire cottage industry on resale sites dedicated to digging up Marc by Marc Jacobs pieces worn by Blair and selling them at a premium,” says Tyler McCall, editor-in-chief of Fashionista and self-proclaimed Gossip Girl historian, whose #WaldorfWednesdays and #SerenaSaturdays have become an Instagram signature. “Eric was great at working with contemporary designers, like 3.1 Phillip Lim, Nanette Lepore and Rebecca Taylor, and getting a spot on Gossip Girl could sell out products for them.”
This content is imported from Instagram. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.
“Gossip Girl was really one of the first shows of its kind—a teen-based, contemporary-set drama—to use capital F fashion in that way,” adds McCall. “Bringing that approach to something like a CW show definitely hadn’t been done before. [Daman] says trying to get clothes for the first season was like ‘pulling teeth’ because designers didn’t really get the value of having product placement on TV compared to the long loan time needed to shoot. Of course, once the show blew up, that completely changed and you could have teenagers running around Paris in couture. It wasn’t totally realistic, obviously, but the fantasy was fun and I think it really paved the way for basic cable shows to play with fashion in costume design in a way they hadn’t before.”
More unique too, was the intentional messaging clothing sent throughout the series. Blair and Chuck Bass, the famed couple in a love-hate relationship is one of the best examples.
“I was really playing with their tone,” says Daman. “Chuck’s pocket square would match Blair’s headband and there were these kinds of tie-ins that would connect them. Even if you don’t realize it’s happening visually, there’s something that’s pulling them together.”
For designers, too, Gossip Girl opened up a new perspective on TV and fashion collaborations and also inspired them in unexpected ways. Take Anna Sui for example, who first met Daman in the ‘90s when he was a model for some of her runway shows. Sui released a Gossip Girl-inspired collaboration with Target in 2009.
“I think everyone was just so fascinated by it and really inspired by it,” she says. “The thing that I loved the most is that it was inspiring a whole new generation of young women and men to dress up. Things had gotten so casual at that point. It was fun to see people aspiring to shop and dress like the girls.” She recalls traveling in China during the run of the show and even feeling the influence of the show on fashion culture. “Every single young woman in China asked me, ‘Where’s Greenwich village?’ and ‘Where’s uptown?.’ I just thought it was a phenomenon, all over the world, people were watching, even if they didn’t get it on their regular television. They were watching it on the internet.”
If anything, the fashion in the new series is likely to be just as striking as the original series, if the trailer is any indication anyway, especially in a time when many of us are indulging in wanderlust via TV rather than IRL travel. Much like the original series, the reboot arrives at an inflection point in the culture.
“Gossip Girl hit right at the end of the Bush era and the start of the Great Recession, and I think everyone was looking for a bit of absurd escapism, so it was just another part of the fantasy that Jenny would have the resources to pay off her ‘minions’ with YSL Roady bags or that Chuck might fly to Germany to procure Blair’s favorite Falke stockings,” adds McCall.
Just when we’re grabbing another pair of sweats, the new Gossip Girl might inspire a peacock moment, even if you aren’t leaving the house.